My Journey to One World Center by Elizabeth Mesen Madrigal

(Elizabeth Mesen Madrigal pictured in the bottom left corner)

I came to the program at One World Center (OWC) with the purpose of accomplishing something which I can describe as a dream. That dream started more than ten years ago when I was studying at the university and I decided to join a group of volunteers in one of the largest slums in Costa Rica. There I discovered a passion and a mission. I say mission because I also understood many spiritual things that I never felt until being in that place with those specific people. 

Since that time I have wanted to do something similar abroad. I have always been inspired by the examples set by my mom and by Chio, one of the directors of the NGO at La Carpio where I worked. Because I changed my job, I could not continue to volunteer and work with Chio. For years I became absorbed by a system where I needed to work to get material things and just pay bills every month.  

In 2019 a friend told me about the program at OWC. I decided to join and make my dream a reality, but when I was ready, Covid hit, so I had to wait because OWC stopped sending volunteers abroad for safety reasons. Also, my family faced one of the most challenging stages in our life together, and that experience was my best lesson of patience, love, and second chances. At the same time, I realized how my job was taking the best out of me. These events became a perfect combination to continue learning how to make vital decisions in life and make me feel good with myself and my relatives. 

I know that I cannot change the world, but I can do something around me and not just sit all day in front of a computer attending many meetings and producing benefits for the owners of big companies. Instead, I would rather use all my knowledge and energy to work with people who need help. I want to find ways to transfer that knowledge and power to do good in the world. By participating in the program at OWC, I would have an excellent opportunity to work on my soft skills. Living and dealing with people from other countries and cultures would develop many characteristics of myself that would help me continue to grow. 

I decided to join the program with low expectations. It was the first time I would be participating in a program like this. Therefore I decided to just let it flow, take the events as they would come to me, and not be stressed about it. For example, I never expected all the information and knowledge I received in the first three months. My original expectations were exceeded more than I could have imagined, mainly because I didn’t know anything about most of the topics we were studying. I felt as if I was at the university but on another level when you can say things and are not necessarily wrong because your opinion is based on your experiences. I also found a place where I could feel confident talking and naturally expressing myself. 

After three months in the program and having finished the preparation period, I can say that I learned a lot on many different levels. Academically, I never expected all the knowledge I got, with a lot of information essential for understanding how this world works, making correct decisions, and how to avoid creating more harm in many communities. Also, I feel comfortable having conversations and discussions about the problems that we want to address at OWC. I can now have conversations with people around me to plant a seed of curiosity, so they can think twice about what they are doing. 

Culturally, this is the first time that I have shared time with people from many countries. I’m learning every day about behaviors, points of view, and I notice a massive difference with the younger generations. They come with a new chip, so I know that I have to wait and understand the background of their life to understand their specific actions. This daily waiting and learning, is developing my soft skills. I feel like a new person, thinking twice about things because I want to find the real reason and not just make a judgment. Also, I’m more confident about taking action rather than keeping the information to myself. 

I am happy I decided to start a program at OWC. I am curious about how the next six months working with communities in the Caribbean island of St. Vincent will change me as a person.

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